Infection with the HPV virus is common and infects at least 50% of all people who have had sex. It may go away, sometimes unnoticed, but some types of HPV can lead to cervical cancer or cancer of the anus or penis.
HPV stands for human papillomavirus, but there are actually more than 100 related viruses in this group. Each HPV virus is given a number or type. The term “papilloma” refers to a kind of wart that results from some HPV types.
HPV lives in the body’s epithelial cells. These are flat and thin cells found on the skin’s surface and also on the surface of the vagina, anus, vulva, cervix, penis head, mouth, and throat.
A human papillomavirus (HPV) test is done to find a high-risk HPV infection in women. HPV is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). An HPV test checks for the genetic material (DNA) of the human papillomavirus. Like a Pap test, an HPV test is done on a sample of cells collected from the cervix camera.
This test will identify whether a high-risk type of HPV is present. In women, high-risk types of HPV (such as types 16, 18, 31, and 45) cause changes in the cells of the cervix that can be seen as abnormal changes on a Pap test. Abnormal cervical cell changes may resolve on their own without treatment. But some untreated cervical cell changes can progress to serious abnormalities and may lead to cervical cancer over time if it is not treated.
Although HPV is found in both men and women, this test is not used on men.